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New voting machines, poll workers in Dawson ready for March primaries

BY DENISE RAY
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The Dawson County Elections and Registration Department will roll out the new voting machines for the 2020 Presidential primary Mar. 24

Seventy-seven machines have undergone Georgia state acceptance testing prior to being sent to the Dawson’s Voter Registration and Election Department. Each machine will undergo additional testing prior to being used in a primary, a run-off and on Election day, Glenda Ferguson director of Dawson’s Board of Elections and Registration said.

To alleviate possible voter concerns with using the Dominion Voting equipment, the board of elections is holding a drop-in practice session from now until the March primary from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The overall process is the same simple method as before, but now voters will have the additional step of scanning a paper ballot. Printed ballots will include bar codes that encode voters’ choices for tabulation by scanning machines. The printed text of voters’ choices will be used for recounts and audits.

Voters check-in by handing a government-issued photo ID to the poll worker who will scan it. The same forms of identification (driver’s license, military id, passport, etc.) are still acceptable. Instead of a laptop, the poll worker will use a poll pad (an iPad). If the information that appears on the screen is correct, the voter approves the information with a signature on the poll pad using the stylus.

The poll worker returns the ID, confirms voter information and issues a voting card, similar to the yellow voting cards used in the last election.

Voters will be guided to a private voting station similar to previous elections but will notice a touchscreen and a printer. Inserting a voting card into the bottom of the touchscreen begins the selection process. The touchscreen prompts voters through the ballot and voters will use their finger to indicate candidate preference. At the end of the process, voters will be given the opportunity to review their selections as in previous elections. They will then press print to have a paper copy of their ballot printed, within their voting station.

It is at this point that voters are encouraged to thoroughly read their ballot, making sure it is correct. If it is, voters will then remove their voting card and head to the polling place scanner. Once inserted in the scanner, the paper ballot is cast.

Voting cards are turned in and voters are given the traditional “I Voted” peach sticker.

“Poll workers will monitor everything and make sure people don’t leave voting cards and papers behind,” Ferguson said. “The voting cards don’t pop out like they did with previous machines, there’s not buzzer or warning to let you know you left your card.”

Much hype has been given to the machines and 9,031 voters in six pilot counties—Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Decatur, Lowndes and Paulding—used them in Nov. 2019 elections as the rest of Georgia voters used the 17-year old system.

Each county will have a Dominion Voting technician on-hand during voting to troubleshoot, including advance voting.

The state has financed the $107 million voting system and the county is responsible for providing the thicker security paper and toner for the printer, but there are grants available to cover those costs, Ferguson said.

“It’ll take a while to get used to this,” District 1 County Commissioner Sharon Fausett said as she walked through the process.

Voted ballots will be sealed and stored for two years at the Clerk of Courts office and then shredded.

“This is going to be a big deal,” Ferguson said. “There are elections annually here in Dawson County.”

Ballot security and the integrity of the voting process is intense.

Voted ballots are boxed up and sealed and signatures are in triplicate.

Tampering would be spotted easily. The board of elections gets a set, the secretary of state gets a set and the clerk of the court gets a set.

“If something doesn’t add up, we have to explain why,” Ferguson said. “We have so many checks and balances, I can’t understand why people say Georgia voting is unsecure.”

As for the elections results, they may take a bit longer to capture. “It might take longer until we get experience dotting Is and crossing Ts, we don’t want any mistakes,” Ferguson said.

Voters can watch a video at SecureVoteGa.com to better acquaint themselves with the process.

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